Steam brings its games to the living room with Big Picture

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Looks like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are in for some serious competition, not from each other but a new player, Valve. The American video game developer plans to take Steam (Valve's digital video game distribution service) beyond the PC to players' living rooms in the form of Big Picture.

Kotaku got all the action of the beta version of Steam's Big Picture ahead of its public launch. The gaming site noted how Big Picture is "sleek, intuitive, and groundbreaking in several ways".

The Big Picture mode is, essentially, a brand new interface for Steam that resembles the Xbox 360 dashboard with bigger fonts and large, rectangular picture icons designed to be viewed while you're a couch potato rather than sitting in one of those upright chairs.

Gamers use Big Picture with a mouse and keyboard too by connecting their PC/Laptop to their TV sets. But Valve believes that most people prefer playing video games in their living rooms and that inspired the interface design.

Sharing more on this, Valve's Greg Coomer, heading design and development of Big Picture mode said, "We're confident in some things that customers want. They want a full-screen experience. They want to be in the living room. They want to use a game controller. They wanna have a social gaming experience. And we have this platform that lets us ship a significant portion of that experience."

Speaking of the controls, navigation in Big Picture mode is handled with a standard handheld controller (similar to the Xbox 360), instead of a mouse and keyboard. Triggers on the controller will enable switching between tabs for the store, game library, and community features. An integrated Web browser is also designed to be used with a controller, letting users multitask without returning to the computer desktop.

For text input and other text-based communication, Big Picture mode also features a unique on-screen keyboard that has been redesigned to take advantage of handheld controllers. Rather than scrolling through a standard full on-screen QWERTY layout, users will be able to choose from eight groups of four letters arranged in a lotus-like shape, by tilting the left thumbstick in one of eight directions. They will then have to choose a specific letter using the face buttons on the opposite side of the controller.

Though Big Picture mode puts Steam into more direct competition with other TV-based game consoles, Greg Coomer told Kotaku that this is not necessarily the first step in Valve's long-rumoured plans to design dedicated hardware for playing Steam games.

"What we really want is to ship [Big Picture mode] and then learn," Coomer told Kotaku. "So we want to find out what people value about that. How they make use of it. When they make use of it. Whether it's even a good idea for the broadest set of customers or not. And then decide what to do next."

Coomer's future plans for Big Picture mode include auto-correct and context awareness options. In the more distant future, the company plans to include support for cooperative split-screen mode, with multiple people in the room having enjoying games logged in via their Steam accounts.

Valve is the creator of 6 game series namely; Half-Life, Team Fortress, Portal, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead and Day of Defeat. The company announced  its games platform Steam in 2002. In January this year the company had 40 million users and the current figure now stands at 50 million users. The Steam online store works for both Valve's own games, including Half-Life and Portal and games from other publishers, including both hits such as Skyrim and indie games like Torchlight. Now, the company plans to add non-gaming apps, starting this month.

Check out Big Picture, Steam's new mode that lets gamers access all of their favourite Steam games on a television in this video.



Big Picture System Requirements
OS Windows Vista, 7, or 8. (Mac OS X support coming soon)
Memory 1 GB RAM
Processor 3.0 Ghz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher)
Video card Required / at least 256MB memory and DirectX 9-compatible with support for Pixel Shader 2.0b, Recommended / 512MB+ memory and DirectX 10-compatible
Disk space 1 GB recommended
Internet connection Broadband recommended
Controller Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows, Xbox 360 Wired Controller or Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710 recommended. Keyboard and mouse also supported.

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